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Glorious Garlic

A pungent necessity in the kitchen

April 19, 2022

As a child, I was only ever aware of two spices being used on food: salt and pepper. In the center of our table sat a five container antique cruet set. Despite there being cut glass receptacles for oil, vinegar, and sugar, the only ones which ever contained anything were the salt and pepper shakers.

A purplish colored hard neck garlic variety

Now, as a child, it never occurred to me that there were other spices. Undoubtedly my mother used a few others, but I was unaware that food could be a delightful adventure since she cooked mostly bland foods.

When I left home I took up an interest in cooking. It was then I discovered what I consider the essential food additive, one which has spawned cookbooks centered on it and an entire town committed to it. We are talking garlic.

April 19 is National Garlic Day, celebrated on this date since the late 19th century.

Technically, garlic is not a herb or a spice, but an allium, a member of the onion family. Like onions, it is known for its pungent aroma and taste.

Yes, the Infallible Wikipedia has a page and provides this information:

“Garlic (Allium sativum) is a species of bulbous flowering plant in the genus Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, Welsh onion and Chinese onion. It is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been used as a seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. It was known to ancient Egyptians and has been used as both a food flavoring and a traditional medicine. China produces 76% of the world’s supply of garlic.”

What many people do not realize about garlic, however, is that there are many species; hundreds in fact. While the Infallible Wikipedia does provide a good overview, I find that the cookbook Garlic Garlic Garlic, by Linda and Fred Griffith – in addition to a couple hundred recipes which feature it – offers fascinating historical and anecdotal information on garlic.

For example, there are a couple segments about the legend of how garlic repels vampires. But it’s this gem which would seem to offer a much more practical application:

Personally, anything which can ward off mosquitoes and other pests makes me a fan.

When, in the 1990’s I learned about Gilroy, California – they proclaim themselves Garlic Capital of the World – I added it to my ‘bucket’ list. The last week of July every year they hold the Gilroy Garlic Festival, having done so since 1979. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“An annual three-day event, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the country’s best known food festivals, drawing visitors from across the nation. Located about 30 miles southeast of San Jose, Gilroy is home to about 60,000 people, and the city is a major producer of garlic. The festival is Gilroy’s top fund raiser, staffed with volunteers to raise money for nonprofit groups including clubs and schools.

The Garlic Festival has been held every year since 1979, except 2020 when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rudolph J. Malone, then President of Gavilan College in Gilroy, was inspired by a small town in France which hosted an annual garlic festival and claimed to be the ‘Garlic Capital of the World.’ Malone started the festival, which now draws more than hundreds of thousands of paying visitors a year.”

To be fair, the United States ranks a distant seventh in garlic production by country and produces 237,000 tons. The top honors belong to China which dwarfs all others with over 23 MILLION tons of garlic grown annually. Even so, Gilroy is all about garlic, all the time.

I found a Gilroy Garlic festival cookbook in a thrift store one day… of course I bought it!

Sadly, the hubby and I have not yet attended the garlic festival. But we did manage to visit Gilroy in the fall of 2015.

One of the first things you notice as you come across the Diablo Range from the east is the aroma. There is nothing shy about Gilroy! You pass field after field, many – no doubt – planted with the pungent crop.

But it is the town of Gilroy itself which charms. It sports a very late 19th century sort of feel with its buildings and the various shops which line the main drag. It is an inviting place to park your car and peruse the various retail establishments.

My goal that day, September 2, 2015, was to eat garlic infused food. We ended up at the Garlic City Café which stayed open long enough for us to order and enjoy lunch. Oh my. It was everything I hoped it would be. The chicken dish was topped with mushrooms… and garlic. The French fried potatoes were seasoned with salt… and garlic. It was a gastronomical delight.

The Garlic City Cafe made all my garlic dreams come true

I look forward to a return trip to Gilroy and the opportunity to spend a few days so as to try all sorts of other garlickly delights. Thank goodness the hubby does not mind the smell of garlic!

As always, the links:

Although the photo is a bit blurry, you can see the bits of garlic deliciousness on my lunch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilroy,_California

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilroy_Garlic_Festival

The Rules of Easter

It’s all about the Vernal Equinox

April 16, 2019

easter eggs.jpg

Photo from Pixabay

“The first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox.”

 

You would think something this simple would be without controversy, but as history tells us, it is not.

For Christians throughout the word, Easter marks the day of resurrection. Since as early as 325 AD, with the first council of Nicea, however, the date on which Easter is celebrated has been disputed.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is offset from the date of Passover and is therefore calculated based on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but Pink-Moon-2018-1311105calculations vary.”

One might think that setting out a fairly straight forward calculation would end the debate but, over the centuries, it’s become more confusing.

Things really went sideways when, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the Julian calendar was way off and introduced his own calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the one we still use today.

So what does that have to do with Easter and how to calculate the date? There are people in the world who still – over 400 years later – like the Julian calendar and use it to determine the date Easter is celebrated.

There’s also the whole question of the equinox. Back in the fourth century there was no modern science used to calculate the exact moment of the equinox. Instead it was determined based on the above mentioned lunisolar calendar. Which is a fancy way of saying that the people who use such calendars needed a way to adjust the dates based on what was happening around them. Think of it as the spring equinox begins 14 days AFTER the new moon or, approximately, with the full moon of the season.

According to religious rules about Easter, then, the holiday is not truly based on it being on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. No, the calculation is based on it occurring on the first Sunday following the full moon AFTER March 21.

This year Easter falls on April 21. But should it? The full moon and the vernal equinox both occurred on March 20 – a mere 3 hours and 45 minutes apart- with the equinox crossing the finish line first at 2:58 pm (PDT).  The moon was full at 6:43 p.m. So by scientific calculation, Easter SHOULD have already happened on March 24.

Instead, the rule – for those who follow the Gregorian calendar – is to think of March 21 as the equinox which places Easter on this coming Sunday. In the Infallible Wikipedia article, there’s an interesting table which shows the calculated dates of Easter for each competing calendar.

Year
Full Moon
JewishPassover
Astronomical Easter
GregorianEaster
JulianEaster

2015

4 April

5 April

12 April

2016

23 March

23 April

27 March

1 May

2017

11 April

16 April

2018

31 March

1 April

8 April

2019

21 March

20 April

24 March

21 April

28 April

2020

8 April

9 April

12 April

19 April

2021

28 March

4 April

2 May

 

Note that they have a column for Astronomical Easter giving this year three different dates from which to choose. The chart is also incorrect as we know the scientific full moon occurred on March 20 and not the 21.

And for the record? The most common date for Easter to occur since the inception of the Gregorian calendar through the year 3000 is April 16.

One of these days I’m certain the whole controversy will be settled. In 1997 a movement was afoot to make a change. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“At a summit in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997, the World Council of Churches (WCC) proposed a reform in the calculation of Easter which would have replaced the present divergent practices of calculating Easter with modern scientific knowledge taking into account actual astronomical instances of the spring equinox and full moon based on the meridian of Jerusalem, while also following the Council of Nicea position of Easter being on the Sunday following the full moon. The recommended World Council of Churches changes would have sidestepped the calendar issues and eliminated the difference in date between the Eastern and Western churches. The reform was proposed for implementation starting in 2001, but it was not ultimately adopted by any member body.”

And so it goes. All I know is that hunting for Easter Eggs is usually much more pleasant the third weekend of April than it is in late March. Plus, for our family, Easter this year coincides with my father’s 96th birthday! It will be the fourth time in his life that Easter is on the same day. The other years were 1935, 1946, and 1957.

The links!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter

https://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/easter/easter_text2b.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunisolar_calendar

 

 

 

Cornstarch

An indispensible addition for the kitchen cook

March 22, 2022

One thing my mother never taught me to do growing up was how to cook. Why, I’m not exactly sure. But my guess is that she found the whole process messy and, by adding kids into the mix, even messier.

So, except for a few basic things such as pancakes and eggs, everything I ever learned about cooking occurred as an adult. Needless to say, there were several attempts and fails.

I learned about the various basics needed in one’s kitchen and today, March 22, marks the date in 1841 when one Orlando Jones patented one of those basics which was a process for extracting alkali starch from plants. He then applied this technology to corn, creating a product cooks everywhere appreciate and use: cornstarch.

Cornstarch: and indispensable thickener

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us this:

“Corn starchmaize starch, or cornflour (British English) is the starch derived from corn (maize) grain. The starch is obtained from the endosperm of the kernel. Corn starch is a common food ingredient, often used to thicken sauces or soups, and to make corn syrup and other sugars. Corn starch is versatile, easily modified, and finds many uses in industry such as adhesives, in paper products, as an anti-sticking agent, and textile manufacturing. It has medical uses as well, such as to supply glucose for people with glycogen storage disease.

Like many products in dust form, it can be hazardous in large quantities due to its flammability—see dust explosion. When mixed with a fluid, corn starch can rearrange itself into a non-Newtonian fluid. For example, adding water transforms corn starch into a material commonly known as oobleck while adding oil transforms corn starch into an electrorheological (ER) fluid. The concept can be explained through the mixture termed ‘cornflour slime’.”

Okay, so that information is a bit more geeky than I usually share. Back to the use of it in cooking. It is an indispensible item in my kitchen and is used to thicken Asian stir fries, gravy’s, soups, and all sorts of things. It’s also essential for anyone who requires gluten free foods. Cornstarch provides a lighter consistency than another traditional thickener, a flour and water slurry.

I cannot recall when I learned about cornstarch. It was probably in conjunction with my first Chinese cookbook back in the early 1980’s. What I do know is that my kitchen is never without cornstarch; the small yellow box among the other staples: flour, sugar (white, brown, and confectioners), salt, and baking soda.

Keep this in mind as the story unfolds. Back in the 1980’s the hubby and I had a subscription for a program called “My Great Recipes.” Every month a handful of recipe cards would arrive in the mail. These would be dutifully filed into a rather large molded plastic holder. They were numbered and categorized and, if you finished the entire program, they filled the recipe box with meat dishes to desserts and everything in between. We found many great recipes through this program.

One day I decided to try a recipe which was named “Oriental Ham” or “Sweet and Sour Ham” or something along those lines. I’ll be darned if I can find the recipe now! It required leftover ham – which I had – and then pineapple, red and green peppers. Seemed doable.

Porsche, me and my brother nineteen eighty something. Apparently we were eating popcorn that night and NOT inedible baking soda stir fry.

At the time, besides the hubby and me, my brother and our cat, Porsche, lived with us. My brother was at work that evening when I got busy making dinner. I cut up the ham and vegetables. I started a pot of rice. I heated oil in the electric wok in preparation of the meal. All was going well. One more thing which was required was to take cornstarch and mix it with a couple tablespoons of water to create the thickener.

As the moment arrived to add the cornstarch water mix, I stirred it one last time and then dumped it into the wok and it promptly boiled up in the pan like a miniature volcano. Weird, I thought. That’s never happened before. It should have clued me in that something was wrong, but it did not.

Instead, I served the meal to the hubby and we each took a bite and promptly spit it out. It was inedible.

Not willing to admit that the dish belonged in the garbage, I took a piece of ham and gave it to the cat. He turned up his nose at it and walked away. So I put the food in the fridge thinking by the next day it might be better.

Porsche, who looked at me with ‘judge-y’ eyes like these more than once. No doubt the night of the baking soda fiasco he gave me this look.

Sometime later that evening my brother – who worked afternoons and evenings – arrives at the house and he finds the leftovers. Which he puts on a plate, heats up, takes one bite and then throws the rest out. Needless to say, ALL of it ended up in the garbage the next day.

I cannot recall what it was which finally solved the mystery for me. Perhaps it was a few days later when I went to pull out the cornstarch and realized I had, instead, grabbed the baking soda. The light bulb in my head suddenly illuminated. Cornstarch and Baking Soda are NOT interchangeable. One will thicken things and the other creates a salty mini-volcano.

Lesson learned. Or so I thought. Fast forward thirty years and I’m making a beef stir fry one evening. All is going well until the moment I add the ‘cornstarch’ slurry and – in a repeat of that infamous night – I watch in horror as the mixture erupts into the telltale volcano.

This time, however, I shout “Shoot” or some variation of that word, yank the wok from the stove, dump the beef into a colander and thrust it under the faucet. The meat now wet and cold I examine it and think it’s worth a try to add new spices and, instead of baking soda, cornstarch.

I’m happy to report that the quick rinse did eliminate the baking soda and, unlike that fateful night in the early 80’s, dinner was saved.

Now, in my defense, the manufacturers of cornstarch and baking soda seemed to choose packaging which made the two boxes easy to mix up. After the second incident I started buying my cornstarch from Costco so that the two containers will never again be confused. I might also have taken a black sharpie and written on the boxes in large letters what’s inside. One cannot, after all, be too careful when it comes to cornstarch.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_starch

Serendipity. Coincidence. Synchronocity.

What Are The Chances?

March 15, 2022

I admit that I spent this morning searching for the right word to describe the following: when you end up at the exact same place and time as someone who you would not expect to see in that place or time.

The first word which came to mind was Serendipity. Dictionary.com provides the following meaning:  an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

So that is not the word which exactly fits the scenario. Then I started putting in all sorts of words to try and figure out exactly what I was trying to describe. Which led me down the rabbit hole.

People have, seemingly forever, been unable to accurately describe such circumstances. So here’s what happened to pique my interest.

A week ago Friday, March 4, the hubby and I had been in Spokane for a meeting the night before. That morning, before heading west, we decided to go to Manito Park to look for what’s known as a ‘Geocache’ (note to my readers, more on that is scheduled for May 3).

So off we went to the park. At the first stop I noticed a pond and that it still had a partial layer of ice. Which triggered for me a memory of my Dad sharing stories of his childhood and how he would, in the winter, go ice skating at Manito Park.

For those who know me well, you also know that I’m always interested in genealogy: Mine, yours, does not matter. I love talking about genealogy. Several years ago I took a paid subscription to Ancestry.com.

Photo of my Dad and his brother (I think they are the two boys in the foreground on the right side) skating at Manito Park circa 1928-30.

Of course I knew my dad had grown up in Spokane. I just had never realized how close to Manito Park. And I knew exactly how to find the address of his house: the 1930 census. Which could be found on Ancestry.

Two minutes later, I had the address which – it turned out – was less than a half mile from the park and the pond.

So I say to the hubby that I want to go see the house. He agrees that we can – just as soon as we find his list of geocaches. So off we wander in the park, finding (or in one case, not finding) a few caches. Finally, at about 11:45, I put the address into my map application and we head east to find the house.

How pleased I was when we turned the corner and there, on South Sherman Street, was what I presumed was the house where my Dad, his brother, sister, and parents all lived in 1930.

Dad with his older brother, Lyle, and dog, Buster, sometime in the mid-1920’s at the house. The photo was, unfortunately torn in half and taped together at some point.

I got out of the car and just as I was about to cross the street – which for the record was a side street where little traffic would ever travel – a car turns south from the corner of 17th and starts to drive by. I happened to look at the driver, who is staring gaped mouth at me. He then stops the car, backs it up, and is now staring gaped mouth at the hubby. I might add the hubby is staring back in a similar manner.

By this point, it’s obvious that the driver and the hubby know each other. A window is rolled down by the yet unknown to me driver, and the hubby steps from the car.

“What are you doing here?” The man exclaims.

“We were in Spokane for a meeting last night,” the hubby answers.

“Yes, but what are you doing HERE?” the man asks once again, then adds, “That’s my house.” And he points to the house next door to the one where my DeVore family lived.

“That’s house where my dad grew up!” I exclaim.

By this time, the hubby is introducing me to his friend, Roger, who he has done extensive volunteer work for a number of years with in the Washington Masonic and Scottish Rite organizations.

Roger, it turns out, was coming home that day as he had a Zoom meeting at noon. Five minutes earlier or later the chance meeting would not have happened. We are invited to visit Roger’s greenhouse and I’m given a gorgeous purple orchid. One of Roger’s hobbies is raising them. He gives us the name of the neighbor – who he has lived next to for 17 years – and encourages us to ring the bell and introduce ourselves.

Which we do. She is happy to oblige and we snap a few photos and discuss the house and my genealogy before heading on our way.

The author with the current owner of the house where my Dad grew up near Manito Park in Spokane

So, what are the chances that we would be on that street at exactly the same moment when he happened to be driving past to his house?

Certainly it was a coincidence. Even a bit of serendipitous luck. Perhaps the best word to describe it was coined as Syncronocity.

Of course we know that the Infallible Wikipedia has something to say:  Synchronicity is a concept first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl G. Jung “to describe circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection.” In contemporary research, synchronicity experiences refer to a person’s subjective experience that coincidences between events in their mind and the outside world may be causally unrelated to each other yet have some other unknown connection.”

For me it was yet another odd occurrence in a string of odd occurrences related to my late Father. Like the incident with the 1965 Ford Mustang which I wrote about a year ago: (https://barbaradevore.com/2021/03/09/eee-161-rides-again/)

There have been others which I will eventually share here. For now, however, suffice it to say that it’s somehow oddly comforting to get these reminders of Dad, his larger than life personality still reverberating through my life. Coincidence? Serendipity? Synchronicity? Or, perhaps, a different term waiting to be coined.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manito_Park_and_Botanical_Gardens

www.ancestry.com

The Grizzly Bear

Ursus arctos horribilis

March 8, 2022

Ursus arctos horribilis, also known as the Grizzly Bear, is one of the most feared animals in the world. When the first explorers and fur trappers began to explore what would become the great American West, tales of a huge, ferocious bear soon made their way back east.

A grizzly bear at Yellowstone in 2010 from https://thegirlygirlcooks.blogspot.com/2010/10/yellowstone-national-park.html

It was that intrepid pair, Lewis and Clark, who gave the bear its name. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first described it as grisley, which could be interpreted as either ‘grizzly’ (i.e., ‘grizzled’—that is, with grey-tipped or silver-tipped hair) or ‘grisly’ (‘fear-inspiring’, now usually ‘gruesome’). The modern spelling supposes the former meaning; even so, naturalist George Ord formally classified it in 1815 as U. horribilis for its character.”

There was, of course, good reason to think of the animal as fear-inspiring. An adult male weighs between 400 and 790 pounds! Females are smaller with a weight range of 250 to 400 pounds. At an average of 6 ½ feet in length and 3 ½ feet tall, it would sort of be like having a pro basketball player combined with a sumo wrestler; a truly intimidating beast. Oh, and did I mention that its front claws are between 2 and 4 inches in length?

With the expansion of human civilization there has been a marked decrease in the grizzly population over the last 500 years. In 1850, grizzly bears were found in all of the western half of the US from the Canadian border to Mexico. Population in what would become the lower 48 states is estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000 animals.

Their numbers have, however, decreased significantly. The Infallible Wikipedia shares:

“There are about 55,000 wild grizzly bears located throughout North America, 30,000 of which are found in Alaska. Only around 1,500 grizzlies remain in the lower 48 United States. Of these, around 1,000 are found in the Northern Continental Divide in northwestern Montana. About 600 more live in Wyoming, in the Yellowstone-Teton area. There are an estimated 70–100 grizzly bears living in northern and eastern Idaho. Its original range included much of the Great Plains and the southwestern states, but it has been extirpated in most of those areas. Combining Canada and the United States, grizzly bears inhabit approximately half the area of their historical range.”

In last week’s Tuesday Newsday, I shared information about the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In the 1950’s and 60’s, especially, Grizzly Bears and Yellowstone became synonymous. It was during this era, particularly, when the explosion of visitors, combined with an abundance of grizzly bears combing the park dumps and trash cans for a meal, collided.

What happened was an increase in bear and people encounters, similar to those often seen in movie footage of the time:

In the early 1970’s, policy changed with an all out effort to return bears to their natural ways.

Of course, I did not know all this when the hubby and I arrived at Yellowstone on September 1, 1980. As far as I knew bears roamed everywhere in the park and were around every turn. This is my mindset when, just after sunset – about 8:30 p.m. – the hubby has gone on foot to pay for our campsite.

There I sit, all by myself, the camp sites around us empty… when I hear it. The hum of an engine and the crackle of a loudspeaker, the words – at first – unintelligible.

I watch as a station wagon, bearing the National Park logo, rolls slowly into view, emerging from the dark forest. There are speakers mounted on the roof and someone from inside the safety of the car is, apparently, determined to scare any and all visitors half to death. The loud speaker cracks with sound and a solemnly intoned message blares into the quiet night to those foolish enough to camp there:

The author with a grizzly bear when visiting the University of Alaska Museum of the North at Fairbanks in March 2017

“This is bear country!” (static sounds follow) “Store all food securely in your vehicle” (more static)… “Fear… fear… fear…” (static). Okay, I made that last part up, but by now you have the picture. The message repeats as the car slowly disappears into the night. By now I am certain that grizzlies are going to emerge from the woods and make a meal of me, a certainty since all that would be between us and the 500 pound beast is a flimsy tent wall.

By the time the hubby arrives back in camp, I’m good and freaked out. Even so, we get a fire started, dinner fixed and eaten. And then I get really weird. I’m on my hands and knees, with flashlight, searching for that one kernel of corn I’m certain I dropped during the meal which, if smelled by a bear, will encourage them to rip into our tent and have us for a midnight snack.

My travel log entry reads as follows:

“I became almost fanatical in seeing that everything was securely locked away and bear proof. No bears tried to eat me during the night.”

My entry says ‘almost’ – there was no ‘almost’ about it. I was fanatical.

During two subsequent trips to Yellowstone, in 1982 and 1989, we became obsessed with trying to find a bear. It was during the latter trip that we did, finally, see one. It was about a half a mile away, across a valley, and it took a pair of binoculars to confirm. That was it. The only grizzly we ever saw in the wild.

Even so, bells tied to shoe laces do offer that extra bit of noise which is a good idea since you never, ever want to surprise a bear. Although we’ve seen grizzly in captivity a couple of times over the years, I think I’d rather not encounter one in the wild. A very horribilis idea.

As always, a link or two for those who want to know more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_bear

A pretty good documentary if you have 45 minutes:

Nat Geo Bears of Yellowstone:

A Rainbow Encounter

Have YOU ever driven through a Rainbow?

November 30, 2021

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher Miss Crosslin, loved to teach us science. It was in her classroom one day when she darkened the room and then shone a light through a prism. A rainbow leaped across the space, my attention riveted on this amazing phenomenon.

Rainbows are created when light is refracted through prisms

I learned that a natural rainbow is the result of light being refracted through millions of droplets of water. The Infallible Wikipedia informs:

“When sunlight encounters a raindrop, part of the light is reflected and the rest enters the raindrop. The light is refracted at the surface of the raindrop. When this light hits the back of the raindrop, some of it is reflected off the back. When the internally reflected light reaches the surface again, once more some is internally reflected and some is refracted as it exits the drop. (The light that reflects off the drop, exits from the back, or continues to bounce around inside the drop after the second encounter with the surface, is not relevant to the formation of the primary rainbow.) The overall effect is that part of the incoming light is reflected back over the range of 0° to 42°, with the most intense light at 42°. This angle is independent of the size of the drop, but does depend on its refractive index. Seawater has a higher refractive index than rain water, so the radius of a ‘rainbow’ in sea spray is smaller than a true rainbow. This is visible to the naked eye by a misalignment of these bows.”

While the scientific explanation provides the why and how, the rest of the equation has to do with the human response. It is, perhaps, the most noticed phenomenon in nature and one which causes people everywhere to stop and notice.

A double Rainbow which appeared the morning of January 1, 2020. The photo is looking west from my sister’s home in Selah, Washington. The hubby and I were headed home that morning, and we saw multiple Rainbows as we traveled.

I chose today to discuss rainbows since it was on this date in 2017 when a single rainbow was observed for nearly nine hours! The Guinness Book of World records shares:

“The longest lasting rainbow observation is 8 hours and 58 minutes and was achieved by Chinese Culture University (Chinese Taipei) at Yangmingshan, Taipei, Chinese Taipei, on 30 November 2017.”

The world record rainbow in Taipei on November 30, 2017. Not only was it the longest but several different Rainbow phenomena were present that day.

Rainbows have been referenced throughout human history. I imagine that most Americans are familiar with, for example, the story of Noah and the appearance of the ‘bow in the clouds’ as a sign from God that he will never again destroy the world. The rainbow has been a sign of hope, and used as such, throughout history. A myriad of organizations, businesses, and movements have adopted the rainbow as their symbol. All of which speaks to the universal experience of seeing one.

In addition to a regular rainbow, they’ve been observed with double arcs, and full circle rainbows have been seen from planes. There are also twinned, supernumerary, reflection, and monochrome rainbows.

One thing the Infallible Wikipedia did NOT cover was something I experienced and posted on Facebook a few years ago:

Photo I took of a rainbow in North Bend, Washington, March 2016. About 15 minutes later I ‘drove’ through it.

“Have you ever driven through a rainbow? I’ve done it twice. It’s an incredibly intense experience. The first time was in September 2005 as I was driving a van load of girls back from a trip to the beach. The second time was a year ago March on my way to Yakima. Here’s what happens. The sun is behind you creating the rainbow through the prism of raindrops. As you get closer and closer the light and the colors get more intense until, at last the two merge together in brilliance. A moment later you are enveloped by the sky which has turned dark and gray. The legend is that the rainbow vanishes as the searcher approaches. .. I think that more accurately it vanishes behind you. Here’s the rainbow I drove through about 15 minutes after this photo was taken in North Bend in March 2016.”

I will elaborate a bit further. I was headed southeast and up the hill out of North Bend, Washington, heading across Snoqualmie Pass to Yakima. The rainbow, ever present, shifted from my left side and was now directly in front of me. It grew larger and larger; the rain poured down. I could sense that at some point the rain was going to win out against the sun which was now shining directly from behind me. At the instant it happened, the world was bathed with intense color – red mostly – and a moment later the brilliance evaporated, leaving only a monotone world of grays as if someone had switched off the color.

I think that the automobile is what makes this phenomenon possible as you can travel at a speed which allows you to move out of the sunlight. Even a hundred years ago I doubt it occurred. I can find no recorded accounts (besides my own) of this sort of event happening. My wish for everyone is to experience it once. It truly was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever encountered.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/66553-longest-lasting-rainbow

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2018/4/record-confirmed-for-stunning-taipei-rainbow-that-lasted-for-almost-9-hours-520704

You’ve Got Mail

America OnLine

October 19, 2021

In the 1990’s the United States was enthralled with a new technology that had everyone saying “You’ve Got Mail.”

That was, of course, the genesis of the widespread use of electronic mail and no company better represents the era than America OnLine (AOL).

At one time these arrived in the house weekly – provided like candy to make sure everyone was a customer.

It was in the month of October 1989 when the company was named, formed out of what started as a gaming download application for the Atari 2600 in 1983.

The 1980’s was a time of innovation by hobbyists who purchased microchips, diodes, and capacitors from places such as Radar Electric – where I worked in the early 1980’s – and were building computers in their garages.

The company which became America OnLine changed hands, grew and expanded, finding its market niche through – particularly – schools. It was in the 1990’s, however, when it became a household name.

It was one of those success stories of providing the right product at just the right moment. But, as is often the case, their incredible success also contributed to their failures. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“AOL charged its users an hourly fee until December 1996, when the company changed to a flat monthly rate of $19.95. During this time, AOL connections were flooded with users trying to connect, and many canceled their accounts due to constant busy signals. A commercial was made featuring Steve Case telling people AOL was working day and night to fix the problem. Within three years, AOL’s user base grew to 10 million people. In 1995 AOL was headquartered at 8619 Westwood Center Drive in the Tysons Corner CDP in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, near the Town of Vienna.

AOL was quickly running out of room in October 1996 for its network at the Fairfax County campus. In mid-1996, AOL moved to 22000 AOL Way in Dulles, unincorporated Loudoun County, Virginia to provide room for future growth. In a five-year landmark agreement with the most popular operating system, AOL was bundled with Windows software.

The screen which greeted users circa 1996

On March 31, 1996, the short-lived eWorld was purchased by AOL. In 1997, about half of all U.S. homes with Internet access had it through AOL. During this time, AOL’s content channels, under Jason Seiken, including News, Sports, and Entertainment, experienced their greatest growth as AOL become the dominant online service internationally with more than 34 million subscribers.”

Over the next decade internet users saw the emergence of aggressive competition from entities such as Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo!. And they started doing something AOL did not – they provided their service for free.

Eventually, AOL joined the ‘free’ club although they still have an ‘enhanced’ version diehard AOL customers pay for.

I personally cannot recall the exact year our family became AOL customers, but it was probably 1995 or 1996. We paid our $19.95 a month and soon we were connecting with parents, siblings, and friends, sending emails and messages.

My first email address was a combination of my maiden and married names and was only 10 letters long. The reason for this was that your AOL email could only BE 10 letters long.

I truncated my name to accomplish this which, over the years, has caused no small amount of consternation and confusion when I try to give my email to someone.

At the time I didn’t really care, I was thrilled to be able to send someone an electronic message since hand writing a letter and mailing it was a pain. And, with AOL, I could send and get mail within hours, rather than it taking days. Even better was being able to instantly message with someone while at my desk, typing on the keyboard.

The sound of the dialing phone, the screechy noise that the dial up modem would make in order to connect, and the ultimate words “You’ve got mail,” became quite Pavlovian. I had a small cadre of friends with whom I would communicate, a lifeline as I was a stay at home mom with two children under the age of 10 in those years.

A voice which was heard more than 35 million times a day during AOL’s heyday.

And so it went for several years until we changed internet providers and got a new email account. We went over to the dark side some 15 years ago, opting for a free provider.

Over time, I discovered that changing one’s email address- sort of like moving – invokes all sorts of headaches. The people who have your ‘old’ address will forget and send their message to that one only to have it bounce back or, worse, it ends up in some sort of email purgatory never to be found again.

Alas, technology changes and moves on and AOL is no longer the dominant force it was in the 1990’s. I feel certain, however, that somewhere across America some intrepid entrepreneur and visionary is inventing the next big thing which is destined to change the way we communicate. I just hope that we get a culture defining catch phrase to go with it.

My parents, sister, one of my brothers, and my in-laws all kept their AOL accounts… I think the thought of having to ‘move’ and tell everyone seemed like more work than it was worth. My dad paid the monthly AOL fee until the day he died. Not sure if my In-laws still pay for theirs or not. There’s a lot to be said for that sort of consistency. Eventually, the market pressured AOL into providing a ‘free’ email version which both my sister and brother still use.

Personally, I kind of miss being greeted with Elwood Edward’s “You’ve Got Mail” greeting when I sign on. The YouTube link below tells the story of how he became the voice of AOL. It’s worth the two minutes it will take to watch it!

Goodbye.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AOL

Wedding Woes

“You’re practically guaranteed great weather.”

August 31, 2021

By my count, I have only 137 Tuesday Newsday posts before I hit the magic number of 365. That’s a whole lot of posts. So some days, like for August 31, it can be difficult to hit on just the right topic.

As I was surfing the web… er, researching… I found myself watching a documentary on The Carpenters. For those who have been reading my blog posts for a while, you know that I’ve featured something about The Carpenters twice so far.

Richard Gere and Debra Winger in the romantic movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman

To be fair, I WAS researching actor Richard Gere whose birthday is August 31, 1946. I had watched a couple of clips from two of the movies he was in (Looking For Mr. Goodbar and An Officer and a Gentleman) when a Carpenters video popped up and then I remembered a connection between myself and Karen Carpenter.

So, my friends, this is the third post for arguably one of my two favorite musical acts.

It was on August 31, 1980, when Karen Carpenter was married. Unfortunately, her marriage lasted only 14 months and, in many ways accelerated her downward spiral that ended with her death in February 1983 (https://barbaradevore.com/2020/02/04/goodbye-to-love/).

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In early interviews, Carpenter showed no interest in marriage or dating, believing that a relationship would not survive constant touring, adding ‘as long as we’re on the road most of the time, I will never marry’. In 1976, she said the music business made it hard to meet people and that she refused to just marry someone for the sake of it. Carpenter admitted to Olivia Newton-John that she longed for a happy marriage and family.(snip) After a whirlwind romance, she married real-estate developer Thomas James Burris on August 31, 1980, in the Crystal Room of The Beverly Hills Hotel. Burris, divorced with an 18-year-old son, was nine years her senior. A few days prior to the ceremony, Karen was taped singing a new song, ‘Because We Are in Love’, and the tape was played for guests during the wedding ceremony. The song, written by her brother and Tom Bettis, was released in 1981. The couple settled in Newport Beach.

James Burris and Karen Carpenter at their August 31, 1980 wedding

Carpenter desperately wanted children, but Burris had undergone a vasectomy and refused to get an operation to reverse it. Their marriage did not survive this disagreement and ended after 14 months. Burris was living beyond his means, borrowing up to $50,000 (the equivalent of $142,000 in 2020) at a time from his wife, to the point where reportedly she had only stocks and bonds left. Carpenter’s friends also indicated he was impatient. Karen Kamon, a close friend, recounted an incident in which she and Carpenter went to their normal hangout, Hamburger Hamlet, and Carpenter appeared to be distant emotionally, sitting not at their regular table but in the dark, wearing large dark sunglasses, unable to eat and crying. According to Kamon, the marriage was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was absolutely the worst thing that could have ever happened to her.’

In September 1981, Carpenter revised her will and left her marital home and its contents to Burris, but left everything else to her brother and parents, including her fortune estimated at 5–10 million dollars (between $14,000,000 and $28,000,000 in 2020). Two months later, following an argument after a family dinner in a restaurant, Carpenter and Burris broke up. Carpenter filed for divorce on October 28, 1982, while she was in Lenox Hill Hospital.”

By August of 1980, I was no longer obsessed with The Carpenters. My life had moved on. I had graduated college in May 1979 and also met the man who would become my hubby.

That year I took a job in Eatonville, Washington, as the sole reporter (and grunt of all things small town newspaper) for The Dispatch. When I wasn’t out covering a story, weekends often involved driving to Seattle to spend time with my boyfriend. Life was full and busy. Then in May of 1980 we became engaged and planned our wedding for the end of August.

The soon to be hubby and I discussed having an outdoor ceremony in a park in West Seattle. My mother had other plans.

Instead we ended up at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima on August 30. We had not given much thought to that particular date. As it turned out, that was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend which prompted more than a few declines of guests due to other plans.

Reciting our vows at Westminster Presbyterian Church

A couple weeks prior to the ceremony, the soon to be hubby was on the phone with one of his friends, encouraging him to attend. It was in this conversation when one particular phrase was uttered which has come back to haunt the hubby over the years:

“You should definitely come since you’re practically guaranteed great weather.”

According to WeatherUnderground at the time our OUTDOOR reception in my parents backyard was to take place, it was a decidedly un-summerlike 61 degrees with rain. An even more astonishing fact is that the record low temperature for August 30th in Yakima was 36 degrees set on that date in… 1980.

There were a few other glitches that day also. The hubby’s brother never arrived as he was attending a Porsche car rally near Mt. Hood the day before and his car broke down.

Then, as I was literally about to start the traditional walk down the aisle, the photographer whispers to me, “There was a problem with the camera and none of the pictures I took turned out. We’ll have to do them over.”

Pro Tip to photographers everywhere, this is NOT something you tell a bride just before she walks down the aisle.

Turns out that some of the outdoor photos did turn out… like this one of us, our attendants, and our soloist before the rain started. Note the gray stuff in the grass. Yup. Mount St. Helen’s ash – a little more than three months after the eruption – was still everywhere in Yakima.

So there I was, standing in the church on what is supposed to be the perfect day and all I can think about is what the heck are we going to do about the photos AND listening to the rain drops echoing on the skylights overhead wondering how the party next to the pool will turn out.

With our greatest role models… The hubby’s parents recently celebrated their 75th anniversary. Mine celebrated their 70th in 2017 a couple months before my mom passed.

But all things being equal, it actually was a perfect way to start a marriage. Because weddings are not marriages. Marriages are all about overcoming the various challenges which life tosses at you. In the 41 years since that cold and rainy summer day, there have been broken bones, illness, and challenges which have all but swamped us. But there has also been laughter, adventures, and joy.

So Happy 41st Anniversary to the hubby. It’s been quite the ride.

The links:

https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/us/wa/yakima/KYKM/date/1980-8-30

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Carpenter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Gere

Lackadaisical. Loafing. Slacking. Slothful. Idle. Laggard.

August 10, 2021

By now there is one word which should be at the forefront of your brain: Lazy. Of course I couldn’t be described as lazy and do the research for this week’s Tuesday Newsday. But here I am writing about August 10th, which is National Lazy Day.

It’s that one day a year when we are given permission to sit back and relax.

The Infallible Wikipedia has several entries on laziness, but I got bored reading them as they started discussing all the psychological reasons someone might be perceived as being lazy when in fact they might be depressed, or have ADHD, or a variety of other syndromes.

Instead, the National Day’s Calendar website had the right idea with this tongue in cheek summation on how best to celebrate and observe National Lazy Day:

“Take this test to prepare yourself for the day. Lazy people fact #72432143726413424.

If you were too lazy to read that number, you’re ready to celebrate this day.

The number one rule of any lazy day is if you can’t reach it, you don’t need it.

Don’t break the rule.

We assigned an alternative word for lazy for the day.

We call it very relaxed.

What is the official exercise of #NationalLazyDay?

Diddly squats.

For some tips on how to enjoy a successful lazy day visit A Pint-Sized Life Blog.

We were too lazy to give you our own list.

NATIONAL LAZY DAY HISTORY

The creator and origin of #NationalLazyDay could not be found.

Have a great day!”

I would venture to guess that there is not a person alive who hasn’t used the phrase ‘I’m being lazy today,” when, in fact, what they’re really saying is that they need a break after an intense period of activity.

As I have, ahem, matured, I’ve decided that being ‘lazy’ is necessary. Unlike my younger days, I find that a bit of a nap midway through the day is imperative to getting things done. Although chores may not get completed as quickly as they once did, eventually the things which need to happen are accomplished.

Last year in one of my posts I wrote about keeping house and discussed the luxury of hiring someone to come in and clean for me.( https://barbaradevore.com/2020/03/24/national-cleaning-week/)

I know many of you are familiar with my ‘lazy’ housekeeper and how she eats chocolates all day and reads trashy romance novels rather than work.

But my lazy housekeeper really isn’t that lazy, it’s more that she is easily distracted and can find dozens of other more interesting things to do with her time. I attribute her inefficiency to ADHD because she simply cannot stay focused on one thing for too long.

She might vacuum for 15 minutes and then remember that she needed to send an email to someone, so off she’ll go to take care of that. On her way she might notice that the hummingbird feeder is empty, so will stop to make new nectar. When she returns a half hour later to finish the undone housework, she might actually mop the floor before she remembers she needs a few things from the grocery store or have an inspiration for a scene in a story she’s writing.

These bursts of energy and activity are quite exhausting and soon it’s time to play a game on the phone or, better, shut her eyes for a short respite.

Which, finally, begs the question “Is being ‘lazy’ actually beneficial?”

Internet research provided plenty of articles to support this hypothesis. I decided it was too much work to quote anymore articles on the benefits or pitfalls of laziness but will paraphrase the conclusions.

A person we perceive as lazy might not, in fact, be so. Such an individual is often thinking about the easiest and most time effective way to complete a task. Others might, in fact, be writers. For those who don’t know, writing requires having time to cogitate what it is you are going to write.

Like this article. Before I started to type I spent quite a bit of time considering how I would present the topic and decided to research the synonyms to start it out; additionally, I wanted to find a personal angle on laziness, hence the lazy housekeeper. It really did involve a great deal of deliberation which, to the casual observer, might present as laziness.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this brain work has left me feeling a bit droopy and a nap sounds like a great way to spend August 10th, National Lazy Day.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laziness

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-lazy-day-august-10/

http://news.ku.edu/2018/08/15/new-research-suggests-evolution-might-favor-survival-laziest

The Birthday Paradox

What are the odds?

July 27, 2021

The next time you are in a group of 30 or more people and you want to have an icebreaker activity, have the group line up by the day of the month they are born. Odds are 70 percent that two of the people in the group will share the same day.

This is a phenomenon known as the Birthday Paradox or Birthday Problem. It’s all based on exponents and probabilities. According to the Infallible Wikipedia (who got the information from a whole bunch of smart scientists), this is how it works:

“In probability theory, the birthday problem or birthday paradox concerns the probability that, in a set of n randomly chosen people, some pair of them will have the same birthday. In a group of 23 people, the probability of a shared birthday exceeds 50%, while a group of 70 has a 99.9% chance of a shared birthday. (By the pigeonhole principle, the probability reaches 100% when the number of people reaches 367, since there are only 366 possible birthdays, including February 29.)

These conclusions are based on the assumption that each day of the year is equally probable for a birthday. Actual birth records show that different numbers of people are born on different days. In this case, it can be shown that the number of people required to reach the 50% threshold is 23 or fewer.

The birthday problem is a veridical paradox: a proposition that at first appears counterintuitive, but is in fact true. While it may seem surprising that only 23 individuals are required to reach a 50% probability of a shared birthday, this result is made more intuitive by considering that the comparisons of birthdays will be made between every possible pair of individuals. With 23 individuals, there are (23 × 22) / 2 = 253 pairs to consider, which is well over half the number of days in a year (182.5 or 183). (snip)

The history of the problem is obscure. The result has been attributed to Harold Davenport; however, a version of what is considered today to be the birthday problem was proposed earlier by Richard von Mises.”

Personally, my brain kinda goes ‘tilt’ when I see cryptic scientific characters and formulas which show me how to calculate all of this. So I leave that to you brainiac statistics folks and share my own personal experience with this phenomenon.

The first time I encountered this was as a 13 year old in my 8th grade English class. More about that in a bit. Often, when I’m in a group situation and looking for a way to engage people in conversation, I will ask them their birthday (not the year, just the day) and talk about the paradox. This will often get others interested and soon the entire group is comparing days until, and it usually happens, we find the pair with the same birthday.

Over the years I have been the person who matches another who shares my birthday fairly often. I can think of at least five times this has occurred.

But it was that first time which I think might have the odds makers scrambling to figure out the possibilities.

Back to 8th grade English class. In the room there are probably 5 rows with six desks in each row, so 30 possible students. I do not believe we had 30, more like 24. On this particular day I was in my chair in the front row (I’ve always been one to sit in front in a class) with my friend Bonnie behind me and a girl I didn’t really know, Alice, behind her.

We are working independently on something and Mr. Albrecht, our teacher, doesn’t care if we are talking to one another. So I’m working on my project and can hear Bonnie and Alice chatting away. The two of them, who had only recently met in that class, had taken an instant liking to one another and were becoming fast friends.

Then one of them, I think Alice, asks Bonnie her birth date. To which Bonnie replies, “August First.” Alice squeals and says, “No way. My birthday is also August First.”

By now, they have my full attention. I turn around and reply, “You’re not going to believe this, but my birthday is also August First!”

“No it’s not!” Bonnie objects, “You’re joking. You’re just saying that because Alice and I the same birthday.”

I shake my head and say, “No, it really is August First.”

The debate continues for several minutes as they simply do not believe me. Finally we all agree to bring in copies of our birth certificates to prove it.

The next class day I had mine in hand and eagerly awaited the moment when I would show them I did, in fact, share the same birthday (and in this case, year) as the other two.

Pages 8 and 9 of the Wilson Junior High annual. Birthday buddies and me have checkmarks on our ‘lovely?’ photos.

We huddle together at the end of class and each produce our documents. Bonnie and Alice shake their heads in disbelief as they examine my certificate. Yes, all three of us were born on August First of the same year. It turned out, however, that I was the oldest of the trio having arrived a mere 43 minutes after midnight to make the cut.

María Laura, María Emilia and María Eugenia Fernández Roussee (born 5 July 1960). The triplets are a well known musical group in Argentina

It was a rather amazing coincidence. In all the years since I’ve never heard of another situation like it. In my Google explorations to calculate the odds of such a thing happening, it was nearly impossible to make the search engine understand what I was asking. So, all you readers out there, what ARE the odds of three random people in a group of 24 sharing the same birthday and year?

Yes, I do personally know two sets of triplets… and for the purpose of the Birthday Paradox those don’t count.

I think it is a rather narrow probability and that maybe, our little unrelated trio, defied the odds. It truly is a paradox.

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem

https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-birthday-paradox/